Counting books finished, ‘cause no one cares about the books stacked up on the back of the hopper/beside the bed/couch.
1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman.
Oh wow. A book for adults by Neil Gaiman… which means it’s 10 pages of a sad man remembering being a sad kid, then a 170 pages of him as a sad kid and his adventures with the magical pixie dream girl that lived down the road, until finally ten more more pages of the sad man sighing while he looks at a body of water. Yeah, “for adults”… well, at least it was short.
2. The Mapmaker’s War – Ronlyn Domingue.
I hate bloated epic fantasy with a white-hot hatred that could blind the baby Jesus, and the fact that your standard fantasy novel nowadays is 500+ pages of grimdark neckbeardio “world building” only makes my blood boil. So when this book crossed my radar, likely via amazon algorithm, the first thing I did was check out the page count. It was less than 300 pages. That was enough to make me want to read it.
Domingue’s The Mapmaker’s War reads like a blend of William Morris, Ursula K. LeGuin, and Jeanette Winterson mixing social allegory and utopian yearnings with keen-edged, descriptive prose. Fantasy fans deeply embedded in the genre will likely view the book with suspicion, since it’s “literary” in unacceptable ways: 2nd person narrator, unconventional dialogue tags, and lots of summary. Don’t be one of those people. Give it a read. It’s refreshing to read a secondary world fantasy novel completely orthogonal to the genre.
3. The Christmas Witch – M. Rickert.
So I have a stack of old SF magazines from the past 20 years and I’ve been slowly flipping through them. Most stories are meh, but some are not meh. This is a non-meh story, er, novelette. What a novelette is I can’t be bothered to care, likely it has to do with word count and is only important during award seasons. Anyway…
This is a creepy story about a creepy kid set in a small New England town where you’re not sure if the fantasy elements are real or imagined, and honestly, that hardly matters unless you’re a pedantic dope. It’s Stephen King country, but it’s not. If you have a stack of old of SF magazines from the past 20 years sitting around the house, this story is definitely worth checking out.
4. The Fifth Head of Cerberus – Gene Wolfe.
A reread. Three interlinked novellas, the first is a coming of age story set in a brothel run by a genetic engineer, the second is a “tale” told by aliens about the events leading up to the arrival of intergalactic colonists, the third is a security “report” about a prisoner in a remote prison, who may or may not be a shape-shifting alien. If you’ve never read the book, I recommend it.
5. Meet Me in the Moon Room – Ray Vukcevich.
A short story collection by turns funny, sad, whimsical, and absurd. Most of the stories hone in on small moments and instances like an alien possession while folding one’s laundry, and they conclude and let you go almost as if they were jokes. My favorite story was “Beatniks with Banjos”.
6. Empty Space: A Haunting – M. John Harrison.
Some folks read books to be entertained, others to have a good experience. I read books for their mind-altering capabilities, and M. John Harrison delivers the goods. Definitely not for everyone, but if it’s for you it’ll twist around the way you look at the world.